Tehran leadership remarks and Iranian media treatment suggest severe cracks in the regime's facade as pressure from below continues in reaction to electoral results.
Looking very professional in his picture on Iran’s English-language PressTV news agency, Majlis (parliament) speaker Ali Larijani is holding up his open hand in a gesture that (at least to an American) appears to be asking everyone to calm down as he announces an investigation into violence accompanying the election protests.
To have the speaker making this announcement sends a couple signals:
- It takes the initiative away from the executive (while, by the way, the chief executive is conveniently out of the country);
- Even as it leaves Supreme Leader Khamenei wiggle room, it reminds all of his centrality, because Larijani’s other hat is personal adviser to Khamenei.
Am I reading too much into one article intended for foreign audiences or has Ahmadinejad already been intentionally sidelined?
To consider further, let’s look at the text. The situation: the incumbent wins an overwhelming victory, then the results are instantly announced (someone tell me how
In this situation, your standard dictatorship would have killed protesters (as the Shah did, for example) and harshly condemned the act of protesting. But Larijani referred to “unfortunate incidents” related to students and “reports of clashes with the people” (students in a dictatorship are usually “children” or “led astray by evildoers” but Larijani is sympathetic and demands immediate reports and, while evidently differentiating “students” from “the people” nevertheless implicitly links the two. The history of students in
PressTV concluded its report on Larijani in an astonishingly deferential way toward…no! not toward Larijani or Khamenei (unmentioned) or Ahmadinejad)…toward the students:
The lawmakers immediately informed Larijani and other officials including the police of the events and demanded the release of the detained students and the arrest and punishment of the perpetrators of the acts of violence.
They also requested that students be compensated for their loss.
Another PressTV report quoted Larijani in an astonishing attack on the Interior Minister:
It is beyond reason that students at a
dormitory or civilians at a residential complex are being attacked in the wee hours. The Interior Minister (Sadeq Mahsouli) is responsible and should be accountable for the events. Tehran University
This remark is astonishing because of the public nature of such a fundamental rift in the ruling elite, which one might have expected to resolve things behind closed doors unless the rift has indeed now reached the point where it has become a zero-sum game. That the person making this charge is the personal representative of Khamenei makes it even more astonishing. The implications are even more significant than what Larijani actually is reported to have said: what sense would it make for the Interior Minister to attack students “in the wee hours” unless he were acting on orders from Ahmadinejad? Thus, Larijani seems to be challenging Ahmadinejad despite his reelection. It is hard for me to see how this charge can fail to result in the termination of high-level careers.
A third PressTV report (also today) implicitly equated the most recent demonstrations held by Ahmadinejad supporters and Mousavi-Karroubi supporters…no hint that continuing demonstrations by the losers are in any sense illegitimate. If that is indeed the regime’s new line, it represents an historic shift of attitude toward unapproved demonstrations.
This is a rapidly developing situation, already far different than it was only two days ago. The above analysis also rests solely on reports designed for foreigners and so may merely indicate what the regime wants the world to think. Nevertheless, the implications are at the very least highly intriguing.